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Saturday, January 25th, 2014
3 years, 2 months.
To say we are a frugal family is an understatement. While some might consider the term “penny pincher” as an insult, I would take that as a compliment.
For the fact we don’t have smart phones or cable/satellite TV, it sets us apart from mainstream America. I realize that.
It means we’re a bit removed from modern technology and entertainment; and to a degree, we’re a bit removed from society, as well.
But on the flip side, we get to put that money in savings each month; which will help with down payment for the house we plan to buy later this year…
I actually consider being frugal as one of my hobbies. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but Mommy and I worked our way out of nearly $60,000 of debt and become debt-free last summer. There’s no way our perspective on money can or will ever be the same.
So I’m always looking for tricks that will help us save money. One example is knowing when not to buy retail items; and more importantly, the best time to do so.
My full-time job is in the HR side of freight logistics for a transportation company. Yeah, I know that sounds pretty random, but it’s a real thing; and it’s the main way I contribute to our family’s income.
I know that the next-to-the-last Tuesday of the month, until the first Monday of the next calendar month, is the best time for people to buy stuff cheap. I see it happen every month at my job; enough so that I predict logistics decisions based on that concept.
During that two week period, stores drop their prices in an effort to move the product out before the new month begins, which helps them avoid having to pay taxes on the merchandise they don’t sell by the end of the month.
That is why yesterday, our family met up at Old Navy after work and school. “Good Freight Tuesday,” as I call it, was just a couple of days ago. This is the best time of the month to buy retail products.
So we did.
We found the best items on clearance; as the store wants the “old stuff” off the racks to make room for the new stuff for next month, which begins next week.
Here’s how I look at it. I don’t want to be the sucker who pays full price for anything… ever.
One way I can accomplish my goal is to only shop for merchandise once the next-to-the-last Tuesday of the month occurs.
(I also recognize the importance of shopping for seasonal and holiday items after the season or holiday is over, or coming to an end.)
And just as important, I avoid doing any shopping, other than food and gas, during the first two weeks of the month, when stores are in no hurry to clear their shelves.
While we’re not eager to buy a new car, I will keep this in mind the next time we do; hopefully years from now.
If at a dealership, we will go during the last two weeks of the month, when I predict the salesman will be more desperate to meet his sales quota.
I feel that money management lessons are one of the best gifts I can hand down to you to eventually prepare you to adulthood, as the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad teaches.
So stick this lesson in collection: Don’t buy stuff until the next-to-the-last Tuesday of the month.
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Sunday, January 5th, 2014
3 years, 1 month.
I imagine there will be a lot of confusion for you over these next several years in regards to how animals actually communicate with humans.
Considering all the kids’ movies and TV shows that feature talking animals, it seems to be evident that we humans secretly fantasize about being able to truly talk to the animals we love.
In fact, something I’ve got up my sleeve for 2014 is a 373 word childrens’ book I have written and have recently started working with an extremely talented illustrator on.
The plot line itself capitalizes on the truth that animals and humans do communicate in a language, but not a spoken one.
More on that in months to come, hopefully…
As for today, I want to tell you what happened this weekend as you were re-introduced to Max, the amazing Cockapoo (a Spaniel/Poodle mix).
On April 5th, 2011, nearly 3 years ago, I wrote Jack Meets Max The Cockapoo. Today, I write the follow-up.
We visited our friends, the Scotts, who happen to have a daughter named Parker who is close to your age, as well as a lovable dog who seems to be mutually interesting in you.
I really enjoyed following you, Parker, and Max around the Scotts’ house.
What initially started out as you sort of pestering Max, because you wanted to pet him so much, ended up being for the majority of the visit, a constant chase of Max after you.
Granted, I think some of it is that he was curious to try your organic yogurt-covered raisins.
But I could also see that Max also truly wanted to be your friend.
I loved watching him follow you around.
What I loved even more was the way you so naturally talked to Max, assuming he definitely understood you.
“Follow me, Max. Come this way with us,” I heard you tell him as you and Parker ventured over to the kitchen.
Later on in the morning, as Max was getting bored of being upstairs watching you and Parker in the “jumpy house,” as you call it, you could tell Max wasn’t being himself:
“What’s wrong, Max? Why are you sad? You want to go downstairs?”
For me, it was like watching three children, two are which were actually human. Even I could see, as you so easily did, that Max wanted your friendship and acceptance; and again, your snacks.
I don’t want to make it seem like our family members are huge animal lovers that let dogs lick our mouths. After all, our family doesn’t have a pet. As we put it, “We’re not dog people and we know this.”
However, Max is different.
We’ve known him for about five years now. He’s like the coolest dog ever. So Mommy and I have tossed around the idea… of getting a Cockapoo when you’re a bit older.
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Saturday, December 28th, 2013
3 years, 1 month.
You would think that after 865 letters from me, I would have mentioned this already:
One of our regular family activities is, as you word it, to “go to the ‘cycling center.’”
When Toyota provided an Avalon Hybrid for us last week for the review I was writing, I deciced it was finally time to mention recycling to you.
It wasn’t until I drove a car that gets virtually the same miles per gallon in both the city and on the Interstate (about 40 mpg) that I really got in tune with how “California minded” I have become, since marrying Mommy 5 and a half years ago.
I remember when when we first got married, she commented that recycling isn’t as much of a part of the culture here in Tennessee, compared to where she’s from in northern California.
As someone who’s lived in the South my whole life, I could see that… especially as I’ve visited Sacramento each summer for the past 6 years now.
So I personally want to do my part to change my own sense of apathy when it comes to recycling.
(If it weren’t for Mommy, though, I doubt I would make an effort to recycle; to be completely honest. She’s a good influence on me, like that!)
Therefore, we collect our recyclables in our pantry all week, then load up the car every few weekends to drop it off about 20 minutes from our house.
Granted, there are definitely weeks we don’t get around to it and it’s easier to just use the garbage bin instead. It’s not something I’m going to beat myself up over, though.
Fortunately, the recycling center is on the way home from church, so we’re not burning extra gas each week to go recycle… that would be a bit counterproductive.
I admit, it’s a sort of a hassle- it’s one more thing that I don’t want to have to worry about doing over the weekend, when we’re already hard-pressed to find family quality time.
But thinking back on each time we go to the recycling center… you actually love it. To you, I suppose it actually is quality family time.
You’re always so excited to watch me toss the plastic, paper, cardboards, and glass items into the appropriate bins, as you and Mommy watch from the car.
So at least in addition to helping the environment, you’re getting free entertainment out of the deal.
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Sunday, December 1st, 2013
I’ve noticed that in the 2 years our family has been vegetarian, and for the 9 months that I have been a strict (!) vegan, I have less and less of a desire to talk about it publicly.
While I’m definitely passionate about living this alternative lifestyle, which is often misunderstood and (until recently) poorly represented, I know I have become tired of explaining it to people.
I have found that in an effort to simply answer the curious (and sincere) questions I get from people at work who see me eating my vegan lunch (which I always eat cold because I don’t believe in using microwaves), it becomes difficult to simply explain my lifestyle without making the other person feel like they have to defend themselves.
Like I’ve said before, I don’t want other people to convert to my lifestyle. Instead, I want people to eat what makes them happy. I eat only plants because that makes me happy, but I respect people who don’t eat the way I do… because that’s 98% of the American population.
But I have to get better about communicating this lifestyle to those who ask. I need to be more upbeat about explaining my food choices… but again, only when people ask, because I never want to come across as “preachy.”
So here it goes…
One of the questions I get is, “What do vegans and vegetarians eat for Thanksgiving?”
As the pictures in this letter demonstrate, I suppose we can eat all sorts of things- given that they don’t contain meat (for vegetarians)… or cheese, eggs, milk, insect-based food dyes, or gelatin (for vegans)… or honey or petroleum-based food dyes (for strict vegans, like me).
I think a lot of my challenge in having this conversation with people is to make it clear this lifestyle isn’t about what I can’t have… but instead, all the things I can have.
For Thanksgiving this year, another plant-based family brought over several dishes to combine with ours, to have quite the vegan spread.
Since some at the dinner were vegetarian and not vegan (like you and Mommy), cheese and milk were available, but not included in the ingredient list for the dishes.
Based on what I remember from looking at these pictures, we had salad, green bean casserole, lasagna, lentil loaf, bread, apple cider, hummus and pita chips, and stuffing.
And for dessert… chocolate pie, cranberry pie, and apple crisp. (You were quite excited… so excited, you got serious!)
In an age where Google is king, vegan recipe websites like Oh She Glows make it really convenient for us to find solid meal ideas that are as easy (or as complicated) as Mommy needs them to be.
We didn’t have to go this fancy for Thanksgiving, but it was sort of a fun challenge for our family. I bet next year we’ll just do a salad, veggie lasagna, and chocolate pie.
But at least when people ask me if I had a big Thanksgiving this year, I can honestly say yes.
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Thursday, October 24th, 2013
2 years, 11 months.
I wish I could think of a more clever title than that, but that’s the best way to summarize how I see it.
If only it was as easy as two people falling in love and having babies and it all automatically working out after that…
Like marriage, maintaining a positively functioning family is hard work. It’s an investment.
Our lives spent together as a family are enriched because we accept the challenges and mysteries of everyday life together. But being a family doesn’t magically fix things.
The way I see it, a strong family must be built and nurtured. I can’t expect to be completely fulfilled by you and Mommmy.
That would be putting way too much pressure and responsibility on both of you. In the same way, I can’t make your life perfect and complete simply because I’m part of your family.
Being part of a family means agreeing to go through the worst parts of life together with the same passion and acceptance as we do the best parts.
It’s a priviledge, a responsibility, and a blessing.
I don’t mean to seem so fatalistic or gloomy about it, but I do believe that love is long suffering. I believe that’s part of what a family’s love is all about. Yet, I believe that same love is also kind.
And that it doesn’t envy; that it doesn’t parade itself. It’s not puffed up; it doesn’t behave rudely. It doesn’t seek after a selfish agenda.
I believe love is not provoked and doesn’t think evil or rejoice in iniquity, but instead, in truth.
The way I see it, our family’s love must bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things.
And I believe love never fails.
Yes, that’s easier to say than to live out on a daily and lifelong basis. I know.
Because love is not automatic or easy. It’s a choice.
Maybe it’s too naive to aim for perfect love in our family, but I do know that perfect love drives out fear.
I can’t expect things just to work out for us because we are a family. I have to be the kind of love I want to receive in our family.
To me, this is what real love is actually about. It’s a little too real sometimes.
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